The struggle for customer loyalty is not over once a new customer makes a purchase. In fact, it has just begun. Vicki Lynne Morgan, president of Califon Connection in Sussex County, says that businesses can lose 20 to 30 percent of their customer bases in a year’s time, with about two-thirds of these losses due to poor management of customer relationships.
Businesses do all kinds of things that may turn people off, she says — project an identity that is not trustworthy, be short on the telephone, or simply not understand customer concerns.
To be truly customer-centric requires information about customers’ buying habits and interests, the ability to communicate regularly with customers using technology, and techniques for creating positive customer experiences. “People want to enjoy spending their money, and they want to have a fulfilling encounter with you as a service or sales product provider,” says Morgan. “Getting to know them one on one, understanding them, and being able to communicate and express empathy toward them helps the parties to really bond.”
Morgan was scheduled to speak on “Customer Experience Management — How to Prevent Churn, Attrition, Turnover, and Defection,” on Wednesday, June 24, at 7 a.m., at a webinar sponsored by the New Jersey Small Business Development Center. Cost: $19. For information about other SBDC programs, call 609-771-2947 or visit www.sbdcnj.com.
Customer loyalty is critical to business success. “The longer you have a customer, the greater the profitability is from that customer,” says Morgan. The first sale is not always a moneymaker, she explains, because of a substantial investment required in terms of time, energy, imagination, and money. But the value of the relationship grows as the customer does repeat. “It’s more expensive to keep finding new customers than to keep old ones,” she says.
Morgan describes five strategies that together promote customer loyalty:
Relationship strategy. To establish strong relationships with customers, company representatives must project a strong professional identity characterized by thoroughness, organization, excellent speaking skills, a professional look, and knowledge of their business. They also need to create trust through high ethical standards and total clarity as to how the company does business. Customers can then feel positive about the relationship, and employees can feel they have been helpful to the client. “The customer goes away as a happy camper and will speak well of the company,” says Morgan, “and the employees will see a boost in their energy.”
Product strategy. Because customers expect company representatives to be experts in their products, salespeople must be able to explain how a product or service fits and benefits the customer’s business. If the product is a copy machine, a sales rep might say to a potential customer, “This product makes 200 copies a minute, and it will increase office productivity because you won’t have to wait for copies being made.” A sales rep also must be aware of the product’s position in the marketplace, which can range from high end to dollar-store quality.
Customer strategy. Businesses need to identify and clearly define their target markets and to profile the customers falling within them, including their needs, wants, and urgencies; their expectations of the business; and what motivates people in that industry to make certain decisions. In the selling process, says Morgan, “customers like choices, and they expect you to be an advisor to them.”
Presentation strategy. Written and verbal presentations — PowerPoints, sales letters, and brochures — must be well constructed, deliver a clear message, and maintain the customer’s attention. This requires appropriate sequencing to deliver information in a logical way, excellent grammar and graphics, and engaging vocabulary.
“Use vocabulary that customers are comfortable with and can relate to, not words they have never heard before,” says Morgan. “Use words that make what you are talking about even more interesting.” Words she likes include: discovery, experience, exactly, delightful, and spectacular.
Service and after-the-sale strategy. This involves not only supporting the product or service, but also telling the customer what the business is going to do to follow up. “Once you get the sale, it’s that service and after-the-sale strategy that keeps the relationship going,” says Morgan.
Businesses should arrange to periodically visit their customers to check in and answer any product questions. “When you do that, you are opening the door for more opportunities for repeat and referral business,” says Morgan.
Morgan was born in the Philadelphia suburbs. Her father never finished high school, but rose within the close-knit candy industry, where he was well respected. He worked for several candy companies, ending his career with Just Born, and developed many different flavors of jelly beans.
Morgan studied business at Centenary College in Hackettstown. After first being a secretary and administrative assistant, she ended up as a customer trainer for Xerox in Illinois and New Jersey, and then as a supervisor of trainers.
Towards the end of her tenure with Xerox, she became the first sales rep working for the company in New Jersey, but after a couple of years decided to leave.
Her next venture was a business in the pet supply industry that she started with her next door neighbor in 1976. “He bought a truckload of dog food, and I said I’d help him sell it,” recalls Morgan. That relationship led to Morgan forming, in 1976, Animal Brands, a “doing business as” for her company, Califon Connection. Animal Brands is a manufacturer’s representation agency that serves the pet industry as an independent sales contractor. Her husband joined her in the business in 1989.
As the pet industry changed over the years, Morgan and her husband wanted to diversify. In 2001 she started the Russmor Marketing Group, the business name for her teaching, public speaking, and consulting, which has included writing training manuals and serving as a counselor for entrepreneurs and small business owners through the Small Business Development Centers in New Jersey.
About two-and-a-half years ago the Morgans together started Russmor Marine, a dealership for selling floating docks to private individuals, commercial clients, and college rowing teams. They got interested in this business four years ago when they bought a property on a lake whose dock had sunk to the bottom of the lake. When they went out to buy a floating dock, they learned that a dealership was available.
Referring to the various commercial endeavors that she and her husband have developed, Morgan observes, “You could say we have entrepreneurial spirits.”